Date of Submission

Spring 2013

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Felicia Keesing

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Anthropogenic activities are causing ecological and environmental changes

around the world. Some human activities, such as pollution, may have consequences for

the health of ecosystems, plants, and animals. Heavy metal pollution, for example, has

been shown to affect the behavior of vectors for disease, such as ticks, and how they

interact with their pathogens and with humans. I examined the effect of cadmium, a

heavy metal toxic to plants, animals and humans, in forest soil on the exoskeleton of

blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis). Research in Russia has shown that cadmium

present in soil, plants and the blood of animals due to anthropogenic pollution may cause

ticks to become more active and more infectious with several tickborne diseases. Ticks

exposed to cadmium also develop dimpling in their exoskeleton. I examined the effect on

tick exoskeletons of cadmium in forest soils. I collected 270 ticks from five different sites

along the Hudson River. At each site, I analyzed soil for cadmium content and examined

ticks for exoskeletal excavation or dimpling. Though I found that many ticks had

exoskeletal anomalies, and that trace amounts of cadmium were present in the soils of

every site, I did not find that there was a significant relationship between the level of

cadmium in soil and the proportion of ticks with exoskeletal anomalies. I did find that

anomalies were more likely to occur in females than in male ticks. Further studies on the

affect of heavy metals on ticks and on the difference in effects between sexes could be

useful in furthering our understanding of tickborne disease in the Hudson Valley and in

the United States.

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